My family and I took a two-week road trip from North Carolina to Arizona.
When my husband and I decided to rent an RV and road-trip with our kids from Asheville, North Carolina, to Flagstaff, Arizona, we chose to take Interstate 40.
For first-time RV drivers, the consistency and predictability of interstate travel seemed worth it, even if it meant trading off on some interesting sights and diversions.
Turns out, we got the best of both worlds.
Over our 14 days of travel, we came across plenty of interesting spots. Here are the ones I’d consider must-sees:
The beautiful Biltmore House is truly America’s castle.
The first stop on my I-40 itinerary was the Vanderbilt family mansion in Asheville, North Carolina. Though this estate is more than just a large house, it’s a magical place.
You can escape reality and imagine yourself as a house guest visiting the Vanderbilts who’s enjoying a meal in the grand dining room or whiling away the afternoon with a book in the library.
One of my favorite spots is the veranda at the back of the first floor, which overlooks the most magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors should also walk through the gardens.
You can finish off your stop with ice cream at the carriage house and a tour of the winery for a full-day’s adventure.
We visited a different type of royalty in Graceland.
In Memphis, Tennessee, we visited another estate, this one made famous by the King of Rock and Roll. Even if you aren’t a die-hard Elvis Presley fan, it’s fascinating to see how the American icon lived.
Despite the shag carpet in the basement and a harvest-gold refrigerator in a galley kitchen, there was still plenty of glitz and glamour, from the huge chandelier in the dining room to the legendary Jungle Room, where Presley is said to have spent most of this time.
Visiting Graceland was like time traveling back to 1977. We spent just as much time at the attractions across the street as we did at the house itself, walking through museums filled with memorabilia like cars and jumpsuits.
I also made sure to “live like the king” by eating a fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich at the diner before we hit the road.
Burns Park and the Ozarks are great for hiking and scenic views.
Located in Little Rock, Arkansas, this 1,700-acre municipal park sits just inside the southeastern portion of the Ozarks, which is a mountainous region in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri.
The hiking trails, small amusement park, and water slides provided the perfect break from traveling. I fell in love with the trees in the campground that served as the perfect shade canopy on a hot day.
This was just the beginning of the Ozarks experience. While driving through Arkansas along I-40, we got to see miles of the Arkansas River Valley and scenic mountains.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
It was my husband’s idea to stop here, and I begrudgingly went along, thinking it would be just cowboy hats and spurs, plus a few random cooking utensils from the trail. It turned out to be one of my favorite stops of our entire trip.
Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, this museum features a range of exhibits.
I fell in love with the art gallery, where beautiful works by American painters like Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington depict life in the Old West. The kids enjoyed walking through Prosperity Junction, a replica of an early-20th-century cattle town.
This museum truly had it all, from significant Native American artifacts to memorabilia from iconic Hollywood Westerns.
Cadillac Ranch was a unique and fun stop.
A public art installation in Amarillo, Texas, this stop features a line of 10 painted Cadillacs buried halfway deep into the ground.
Bring a can of spray paint or purchase one at the entrance, then get ready to leave your mark, albeit temporarily.
This place reminded me of a modern-day Stonehenge. Centuries from now, people will wonder about this array of cars.
Additionally, it’s a great diversion in the middle of an otherwise very flat, nondescript landscape.
Don’t overlook Russell’s Travel Center, a truck stop in New Mexico.
I wouldn’t normally put a truck stop on my list of must-sees, but Russell’s Travel Center in Glenrio, New Mexico, went above and beyond any other I’ve set foot in.
We stopped to get gas and grab a bite to eat but walked in to find a classic-car and memorabilia museum, housing everything from Route 66 gas pumps to an iconic Big Boy statue in his bright, red-and-white overalls.
The Petrified Forest in Arizona was well worth the detour.
This short detour off of I-40 in Arizona was awesome — sitting on a rock of petrified wood was like being transported to the time of the dinosaurs.
The north entrance to the Petrified Forest starts about 55 miles from the New Mexico border, and the road through the park travels 28 miles south to Highway 180.
I highly recommend getting out of the car at least once — we made four stops, which is not an easy feat in an RV.
Additionally, this detour off of I-40 takes you through the town of Holbrook, Arizona, where we drove past the Wigwam Hotel. The concrete teepees inspired the Cozy Cone Motel in Pixar’s “Cars,” so seeing them was a highlight for my 14-year-old son.
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